I am working on a story, or maybe more. I'm not sure yet. I've never written directly about my father's abuse of me. What I have written may pertain more to being gay than being abused, but somehow the experience of each is inextricably joined in moments like these in my life.
In this instance I am inspired by listening to a song on YouTube, and I link to it. I'd love feedback, if you have any.
"I Think We're Alone Now" a story by Geoff Tuckhttp://youtu.be/IkMFLUXTEwM
When I was eleven (in 1971) one of the popular magazines or the news had a story about "homosexual men in America" that sparked a conversation with my parents. I don't remember the context, but this was the time of Quentin Crisp on PBS and the Loud Family in Santa Barbara, and - at least in my Southern California home - homosexuality was present, at least intellectually, and it did not seem to threaten anyone. Remember that I was a child, thinking in a child's way. I've always been quite direct, and especially then complicated things seemed to me very simple.
I remember it now... a book I read, a story about two adolescent friends - guys - who over the course of a summer experimented with sex. With each other. At the end of the book one young man went his way to straightness, while the other was conflicted, and wondered. This book inspired me to talk with my parents. The author expressed the story with much sweet concern for each boy and I suspected that he or she must have understood the matter from personal experience. It was quite beautiful. That this subject should appear in a book, and could be handled with so light a touch seems crazy now, considering how strangely moral and charged such topics have become in our time. In this novel one boy turned to his father, who acknowledged that many boys "experiment," and that he himself had, and then this dad "decided" to pursue girls instead. I recall that he did not pressure his son to either choice, the implication was that the boy would find his way.
I can picture the moment I talked with my parents about this book. It was summer. I had been by the pool, thinking and feeling more and more strongly about the subject. I came into the shade of the lath trellis my father had built and I stood with our sliding glass door open. It must have been a weekend, because both my mom and my dad were inside, probably reading - my mom probably had a bourbon and water, and my dad was probably sitting in his familiar, worn, brown leather chair. I explained the outline of this now important book and was met with... well, they must have reacted with some alarm that I took as disfavor or resistance, because in response to them I declared defiantly and with emphasis, "Mom, dad, when I grow up I think I will be homosexual, or at least bisexual."
As you can understand, there was silence in the room. There were sounds from the pool outside, and our parrot - Brid - crunched cheerfully on his polly seeds, letting the shells fly across the room to land somewhere on the blue/green shag carpet, Brid squawked from his perch "Hello?" while my parents must have been thinking what they could say.
"I understand, Geoff," my mom said, "but - I'm afraid you'll be desperately lonely when you're old."
My father had something quite different to offer, something that I suspect came to me from his
heart, from his
experience, "You can't be both, Geoff, you have to choose. You'll be a liar to everyone, an opportunist. You have to be either homosexual or normal."
Clearly, each of my parents understood what I was saying, and so did I. I don't recall the subject coming up again.
My mother's admonition was reasonable and even sensible at the time - the models she knew came from characters in such films as The Boys in the Band - brittle, witty and lonely - and she thought that without children old age would be sad. But, in the moment of my father's advice to me I knew
something about him, I had a premonition of sadness and I think he saw it.
The past is made complicated by the present - so much happens that is not connected, and explanations we strive for later become faulty even as they provide solace. My father was already then many things to me - for some I had words, but some were unspeakable. In the years after this conversation, there were ways my dad punished me for the choice I made, and I understand now that he was also punishing me for the choice he
I listened then to I Think We're Alone Now
as a coded message, the lyrics so clearly described to me the experience of being queer:
"Children behave, that's what they say when we're together/And watch how you play, they don't understand/and so we're/Running just as fast as we can/Holding onto one another's hand/Tryin to get away - Into the night/And then you put your arms around me/ And we tumble to the ground/ And then you say/I think we're alone now..."
This song gave me a sad kind of hope, in a time of my life when I could imagine, but not find, a friend like in the book.